The information about a railway foot-over bridge collapsing in Mumbai’s Andheri spread on social media within minutes of the incident on Tuesday morning and the first signs of how Mumbai’s public transport would get crippled for at least 24 hours emerged.
It’s now becoming almost a routine thing for residents of Mumbai to face such a disaster which then affects their lives adversely. However, Tuesday’s incident was a major one, as it threw the suburban rail network on the western line completely out of gear putting tremendous pressure on roads. People got stuck in huge traffic jams, as lakhs of commuters shifted from Western Railway to western expressway. Close to 45 lakh people travel on this network every day. For them, non-availability of transport was a big impact.
The other reason for this becoming a big issue was that just about 10 months ago when the tragedy of a bridge collapse happened at Elphinston Road station claiming 23 lives, Railways had announced that they would go in for a structural audit of all bridges and ensure that such a tragedy would not happen again.
Clearly, that audit has not been effective as another bridge has collapsed on the tracks.
There is some debate over who is supposed to be responsible for the maintenance of these bridges on the tracks. Is it the responsibility of Indian Railways or is it the responsibility of the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Politicians started debating this in a big way on media channels because it’s the BMC that is supposed to provide funds for the bridges but they get built by the Railways. Who is responsible for the accident, which happened on Tuesday is a vague
This ambiguity, over who is responsible for what in Mumbai, is most of the times used by politicians to get away from taking action on time and this ambiguity itself is also the cause of most of the infrastructure problems that the megacity is now facing. Almost every week, there is some disaster or the other, such as a huge fire or a building collapse or a transport accident. Sometimes these accidents are fatal, sometimes they are not. However, thousands of crores worth of man-hours are lost in Mumbai because of incidents such as the one that happened on Tuesday. If lakhs of people are not able to reach their workplace for the entire day in India’s financial capital, who is responsible for that.
The government must come out with a concrete agenda of ending the ambiguity over what is BMC’s area of responsibility, what is Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority’s area and what is Railways’ area of responsibility. Unless this responsibility can be fixed, Mumbai’s infrastructure will not be effectively maintained.